Marlins search for more offense at winter meetings

MIAMI — No game epitomized the Marlins’ 2013 season more than Closing Day.

Right-hander Henderson Alvarez had pitched nine no-hit innings against the Tigers, yet his offense had produced no runs.

Luckily for Alvarez his fortune changed when a wild pitch with two outs in the bottom half of the ninth brought in the decisive run.

Still, the joyous occasion highlighted a troubling trend to a retooled front office: All year Miami’s pitching staff — 11th in the Majors — fell victim to a lack of run support.

The offense, which finished last in almost all statistical categories, scored 85 fewer runs than the next team. Miami was shut out 18 times.

That’s why heading into Hot Stove season, the Marlins knew exactly their area of need.

“Bats. Period,” general manager Dan Jennings exclusively told FOX Sports Florida last week at Marlins Park. “We’re looking to improve our offense. When you’re looking at our offensive numbers this year — historically in the history of baseball — it was poor. We know it was poor.”

Miami appears to have already made a splash before next week’s winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

According to multiple reports, free-agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal Tuesday.

The 28-year-old improves the offensive production of his position. Marlins backstops combined for an MLB-low .466 OPS.

Saltalamacchia hit .272/.338/.466/.804 with 14 home runs and a career-high 65 RBI in 121 games for the World Series Champion Red Sox.

Veteran Jeff Mathis held the lowest batting average (.181) among catchers with at least 200 at-bats. He did hit five home runs and 29 RBI.

Second-year player Rob Brantly began as the 2013 Opening Day backstop, but he was demoted 65 games in when he struggled offensively (.211/one HR/18 RBI).

Jennings wants guys to complement the existing young talent that learned while playing in the big leagues in 2013.

“When you get thrust into the Major Leagues having only 60 at-bats above A ball it’s a tough league out there,” Jennings said. “It’s unforgiving, and we had guys fight through some tough times. And really, they did a great job. They energized our entire fan base and their teammates, and that’s big.

“But we need to find some guys we can put around them to help them develop and to take a little pressure off them and let them realize, ‘Listen, you’ve got less than a full year in the Major Leagues.’ Get them in their correct role in the lineup and then the clock can speed up.”

Another area the Marlins will look into both via the free-agent market and trades is the infield, primarily at third base.

Names linked to club interest include Juan Uribe and Eric Chavez.

Both veterans would fit the bill described by Jennings. They would also serve as a stopgap before first-round pick Colin Moran is ready to man the hot corner.

Uribe experienced a resurgence, hitting .278 with 12 home runs and 50 RBI in 132 regular-season games for the Dodgers in his 13th season. The 34-year-old played 123 games at third after a couple of down years in Los Angeles.

Chavez batted .281 with nine homers and 44 RBI in 80 games with the Diamondbacks. The 35-year-old spent 52 games at third and six at first during his 16th season.

Jennings believes the team can quickly turn around its 62-100 record by adding the right pieces to the lineup.

In 2013, Miami played in 59 one-run games, finishing with a 24-35 record. In games decided by two runs-or-fewer (89) the Marlins went 34-55.

“We knew going into 2013 it was going to be a transition year: new manager, we moved a lot of guys who had high experience levels,” Jennings said.

“But when I look at this club moving forward, and I look at the young pitching that we have and what they were able to do over the course of the year, where we finished defensively… There were some offensive inefficiencies that we are going to address, and we’re in the process of addressing.”
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